Do you know the story of the Madonna del Soccorso of Sciacca? Maybe not everyone knows her in Italy but she is deeply felt and celebrated in Boston.
Indeed, in Boston they celebrate it with a great party that follows the ancient Sicilian tradition and also includes the Flight of the Angel.
All this is possible thanks to the Madonna del Soccorso Society of Boston and its current president Kenny Palazzolo. A man with a dazzling smile and a heart divided between his two cities: Boston and Sciacca.
A man with a thousand resources who for some years has also started an intense promotion of Italian and Sicilian cuisine by participating in television shows such as Masterchef 10 USA and Gordon Ramsay’s The FWord season 1.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Kenny is the 4th generation of Italian emigrants to America. The first had arrived in Boston around 1910, a generation that brought with it the knowledge of the fisherman’s trade and the emotions of THE largest celebration of the town.
His ancestors actually came from various parts of Italy (Avellino, Naples, Mirabella Eclano, Montefalcione in Campania and of course Sciacca in Sicily). These families all settled in Boston’s Little Italy.
Each community brought with it its own traditions and above all the religious celebrations of their respective patron saints.
Once upon a time in Boston, there were about 13 Italian Festivals and celebrations, lasting a few days linked to a particular saint. Today this number has dropped down to 4, and one of the most beautiful one is definitely the Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca. The others are connected to the municipalities of Montefalcione, Mineo and Cava dei Tirreni).
The Madonna del Soccorso Society of Boston has over 80 members, with an age ranging from 18 to 80 years. But admission is not open to everyone! You have to prove that you are a descendant or that you have married someone from Sciacca.
Not only that, in Boston they do things seriously!
Children who take part in the Flight of the Angel, and ‘fly’ connected to a suspended rope, must demonstrate that they speak the ancient dialect of Sciacca.
Two of Kenny’s three daughters were ‘angels’, and now his granddaughter has become the guardian angel, the figure who does not ‘fly’, but who instead positions himself at one end of the rope.
In 1994 and 2014 the Madonna del Soccorso of Boston flew from the states to Sicily and to Sciacca (this time with a plane and not with a rope) to take part in a procession and to create bridges between the two Italian and American communities.
And it’s nice to hear the stories of the two tales and how much technology can do today to keep these ties alive.
In 1994 there were still no social networks and people kept in touch with intercontinental phone calls or letters. A difficult way of communicating, where the difference in language was a real barrier.
In 2014, however, Facebook was already born and people could become friends virtually and stay connected even through images, which we know reach the heart directly and go through any language barrier.
Thus deep friendships were born, and now Kenny and his American friends from Sciacca have many bonds that keep traditions alive every day.
Sometime they do live broadcasts, exchanging their emotions in real time.
Today, after more than a century apart, the two communities have a common language with which with they can keep their ties alive (and automatic translators are a great help in this!).
But the Feast of the Madonna del Soccorso has forcefully entered another time in Kenny’s life.
In order not to lose the emotion of his daughter who was the protagonist of the party, in 2015 Kenny gave up participating in Masterchef 8 where they had called him after passing the preliminary stages.
California is a long way from Boston, and the show started on the very same day as the Party where his daughter was set to fly down the tightrope.
Cooking is his passion, but family comes first and traditions must be respected.
And perhaps fate loves those who respect their traditions and two years later the time for television came again, first with Gordon Ramsey – with a live show with all his cousins from Sciacca – and then with Masterchef 10.
Today Kenny has his own Youtube channel where he promotes Italian cuisine and above all the traditions of his land of origin ‘Live, Laugh and cook italian’. And we are sure that his career as a chef will not end here, this is just the beginning.
With his smile and his optimism he expresses the best part of Italy and America. And it is capable of dragging everyone with his enthusiasm!
Kenny Palazzolo is the best person to promote Sciacca in the world and the Town Ambassador Award is a dutiful thanks to his amazing efforts.